Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review

4.5
November 13, 2013 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

Conclusion


Back in 2012, when we reviewed the Olympus OM-D E-M5 we called it the “best Olympus compact system camera to date, and also a strong contender for best compact system camera full stop.” It offered a very good sensor, fast auto focus and a compelling feature set in a compact package, a combination that earned it our highest 'Essential' rating and our Camera of the Year 2012 award. That being said, the E-M5 did have its share of shortcomings – for most people with medium to large hands and/or longish fingers, its controls were simply too small and cramped.

The slightly larger Olympus OM-D E-M1 addresses these issues by providing more real estate, bigger controls and a redesigned user interface. which works exceedingly well. The new control layout is well thought-out and the level of customisability is extremely high. The camera is robust – more so than the E-M5 –, and highly responsive. Thanks to a combination of contrast- and phase-detect AF, its ability to keep a moving subject in focus is quite close to that of an SLR (if not a pro grade one), which is no mean feat given that the OM-D E-M1 is a compact system camera after all.

The new EVF is among the best we have ever used, with great resolution, good colour rendition, fast refresh rates, a large apparent size and adaptive brightness control. The newly introduced Colour Creator is an ingenious tool to add, fine-tune and preview colour casts and adjust saturation and hue using a colour wheel. Other additions, such as a PC sync terminal for studio flashes and a 2x2 Dual Control system, will appeal to professional photographers; while the focus peaking feature will likely be welcomed by those who use legacy lenses on a regular basis.

Image quality continues to be excellent for a cropped-sensor camera. From ISO 100 through to ISO 1600, noise is very well controlled, usually not becoming an issue until you hit ISO 3200. We never longed for a camera with a bigger sensor, and you'd have to step up to a full-frame DSLR to see an appreciable leap in image quality. The image stabilisation system works very well indeed, even when hand-holding the camera at slow shutter speeds or shooting video without a tripod. We would, however, like to see more frame rate options and higher bit rates for movies, as the OM-D E-M1 does lag behind the competition in these areas.

Overall, our main criticism of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 lies not with its performance or feature-set, but with its price. £1299 / $1399 body-only is a lot to pay for a compact system camera these days. The combination of great image quality, an abundance of features, excellent auto focus, insane customisability and a robust dust-, drip- and freeze-proof body with a well-thought-out user interface do go a long way in justifying the cost, but with Sony soon releasing its similarly sized, full-frame Alpha A7 for the same price in the UK and a few hundred dollars more in the US, the OM-D E-M1 still seems a bit overpriced to us.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 5
Features 5
Ease-of-use 5
Image quality 5
Value for money 3

Entry Tags

hd, compact, review, photos, samples, images, 16 megapixel, hdmi, preview, lens, compact system camera, test, jpeg, nikon, video, movie, camera, full hd, wireless, manual, RAW, photo, olympus, DSLR, touchscreen, micro four thirds, 10fps, prosumer, omd, em1, om-d e-m1, e-m1, o-md

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